Guest Blogger Allen Mondell directed the documentary A Fair to Remember with his wife, Cynthia Salzman Mondell. Allen is currently touring the film in Lithuania as part of the American Documentary Showcase sponsored by the State Department. He will be blogging for Art&Seek about his experiences; here is his third report from the road:
We had another screening at the same theater where we were last night. This time, however, the film was shown in a room set up for a small audience and discussion. They were not prepared for the overflow crowd of students and others who wanted to see the film. The American Embassy and Lithuanian organizer asked about changing to the larger theater, but it was in use. This meant that some people had to be turned away.
They introduced me. I made some brief remarks and once again mentioned that the State Fair, the subject of this film, would begin in two days in Dallas and that over the next three weeks as many people would pass through its gates as live in all of Lithuania.
I also told them to tell those who couldn’t get into the theater that they should come to Dallas for a few days and visit the Fair. I was sure the State Department would pay their way if they asked!!
The film played; the crowd laughed at some of the right places; they applauded as the credits rolled. They seemed enthusiastic. Some left, most stayed.
Then came curveball number 2. I asked if there were any questions. No one raised a hand. Now what?
So I ad-libbed for a while telling them I was taking some pictures so my wife would know that I was actually here doing my job. I pointed out some elements of the film which they might not understand.
Then came the first question. “Why weren’t there any young people included in your film?” Followed by, “Could you explain the irony in the film?” and “Why did you bring this film to Lithuania?” He wasn’t hostile, just curious why I thought a foreign audience would be interested. I politely suggested that he should answer that one. Perspiring from the heat of the room and calm, I answered with sincerity and a mixture of Texas hyberbole.
2009 AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY SHOWCASE
They also asked about research and how we picked the people in the film. The Q&A lasted for almost an hour. I enjoyed myself and then headed off with Bill, Arturas and Jugate to a local bar to enjoy Lithuanian beer and discuss the fine art of filmmaking.
P.S. At a reception the night before, the Public Affairs Officer at the American Embassy introduced me as part Lithuanian because my grandparents came from this country. The people applauded and I greeted the crowd with my extensive Lithuanian vocabulary of six words.